Monday, August 8, 2011

5 questions with David Ewen, author of CHASING PARADISE


For those who haven’t heard, what’s the book all about?

Donald Trump’s bid to build what he says will be the greatest golf course in the world. He picked a spot on the east coast of Scotland that happened to be a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and where the locals weren’t for moving. It took Trump five fraught years to get planning permission. What started out as an argument about sand ended up with an attempt to bring down the Scottish Government. Essentially it’s a drama—a flamboyant billionaire’s quest to realize his life's ambition.

What was one of the big things you learned from creating this book?

That people will always view a book through the prism of their own emotional experience. Preconceptions proved surprisingly difficult to challenge. The title itself was ambiguous – and people did indeed read it in different ways. My own opinion, for what it’s worth, is that it may take a long time for us to mature sufficiently as a species to understand our place within the natural world. 

Which part of the book was most compelling to you?

The story crystallised a much wider debate – how we balance economic aspiration with custodianship of the environment; the power of celebrity; the nature of devolved democracy; the changing role of the media; and the meaning of place. The saga also unfolded against a background of unusual events – the recession, the harshest winter in a generation, the climate change summit, Tiger Woods's fall from grace, Scotland's push for independence – all of which helped provide a narrative drive.

What’s been the most rewarding part of this process?

Hearing people say they thought the book was unbiased. The book has a foreword from Trump, which helped secure the publishing deal. It obviously had to be reasonably sympathetic but the Trump Organization were commendably relaxed about what I included, even unflattering stuff. I thought it was better to go with the foreword and get all the arguments out there, and it was great to have the space to do that.

What new projects do you have on the horizon?

I’m writing the songs for a musical my wife Donna has written about Hollywood screenwriter Lorna Moon. The project already has an endorsement from Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond (he lives in the village where Lorna grew up and was later disowned). I’m also working on a novel about Scotland’s mythical creatures. 

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